By Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes
“Success is not final; failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill.
“I don’t feel qualified.”
“People will hate me if I speak the truth.”
“I might fail.”
Do these statements sound familiar? We’ve all let these thoughts plague our minds at one time or another. Whether we’re placed in a new position that is outside our comfort zone or faced with a problem we never anticipated, we all have fears, and they can keep us from effectively and authentically leading and following.
What are some common fears many leaders share? If we start to dissect the statements above, we can recognize a few of them. The big ones we see and have experienced in our own lives are the fears of self-doubt, criticism, and failure. Especially when the stakes are high, executing your plan feels like hitting the giant red button that may or may not initiate the self-destruct feature. These fears can be crippling and paralyze us from taking action, which can sometimes be worse than making the wrong decision.
Don’t let these fears overcome you! We need to live in confidence – not in fear. Even though we cannot always eliminate our fears, we may find the courage to overcome them. This helps to enable our followers to live in confidence as well. Here are a few steps you can take to control your fears and be confident in taking risks.
Tap into Your Team’s Talents
Often our fears start when we feel isolated. We somehow think that as the leader, we must know everything and make every decision. This simply is not true. We have a whole team behind us willing to help. It’s okay to ask advice from a teammate who may have more experience in a particular area. When you tap into the knowledge of your team, you are able to make more confident decisions. And you boost their confidence too!
What we say and do influences others. Valuing our team’s talents through including them in decisions can give our team confidence to also take responsible risks. We can encourage our followers – professionally and at home – by changing what they see and hear from us.
There are two types of criticism, bad and good, and as leaders, we need to discern which type we are dealing with. The bad criticism comes from nay-sayers and those who are only looking to tear down. Don’t be intimidated by these people. They have nothing constructive to offer. Remember Who YOU Are. Be respectful, but don’t let nay-sayer – or be the nay-sayer – hurt your team’s confidence.
However, we don’t need to fear constructive criticism. This criticism is good, as it helps us learn from mistakes and lead better. In these cases, it’s important to suppress the urge to get defensive. When we are approached by peers or bosses, we need to take a deep breath and listen to what they have to say. Ask questions. Most people who come directly to us are only giving us feedback because they want us to be our best and to succeed. If we can discern between good and bad criticism, then the fear of it diminishes. And we grow.
It’s important to remember that you are not your success or your failure. Of course, we love it when we succeed, but our successes are not ultimately who we are. If we put our identity in our accomplishments, then our failures take on new meaning. Let our identity show how we pursue success and handle failure, not the other way around. We also must learn to forgive ourselves when we make a mistake. There’s no point in wallowing in failure. Instead, let’s learn from it.
If anyone has a reason to be fearful, it’s Bethany Hamilton. After surviving a shark attack, the professional surfer got back in the water and relearned her skill with only one arm. She said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” Fear robs us of peace, and it negatively affects our relationship with peers, followers, friends and family. Don’t live in fear. Instead, ask for advice, discern between good and bad criticism, and forgive yourself when failure occurs. Remember Who YOU Are and live in confidence.